Campaign targets smokers

KINGMAN - Cigarette smokers will be the target of a year long, statewide anti-smoking campaign that begins Tuesday with television ads and soon will extend to radio and the print media. The Arizona Department of Health Services' Tobacco Education Prevention Program is partnering with the Mohave County Department of Public Health to implement the program in northwest Arizona.

The campaign features Nick (short for nicotine), a character who has frank conversations with viewers, (listeners on radio, readers in newspapers) that mirror six true-life stages of quitting: pre-contemplation, contemplation, setting quit date, post-quitting, skip/relapse, and six months of maintained quitting.

Advertisements also will follow Hector. He will face similar struggles with tobacco and shares his story with Spanish speakers.

One goal of the campaign is to increase the number of clients using quit tobacco services by 6 percent by 2009.

Susan Williams, Mohave County Tobacco Use Prevention Program coordinator, said the most recent Arizona adult tobacco survey reflects 35 percent of adults smoke in Mohave County. That is the highest percentage of adult smokers in the state.

"We currently have about 500 people come to us annually for intensive stop smoking classes," Williams said. "Quitting is so difficult, and we have people at all levels trying.

"About 32 percent of people finishing our class tell us they have quit six months later, while about 28 percent don't say either way."

That means roughly 40 percent of people completing a stop smoking class return to their cigarettes later.

There are many preventable diseases and deaths that could be arrested through quitting smoking. They include lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure and cardiovascular disease, Williams said.

"The campaign is based on the experiences of real people, combined with scientific methodology," Susan Gerard, state health director, stated in a news release.

"Nick is meant to compel people to find out more about the many resources that we offer. As a former smoker, I can relate to what Nick says."

A second goal of the campaign is to establish a baseline for the number of 18-24 year olds that participate in cessation services during the campaign period.

The primary target group is people ages 25-34. Adults 35-55 are in the first phase target group, while younger adults 18-24 comprise the tertiary target group of the campaign.

"The first phase group includes smokers that can relate to Nick," Williams said. "They can identify with what he talks about.

"Tertiary is the fastest growing age group of smokers. We do a good job of getting kids through prevention classes when they're young, but once they turn 18 they can choose to smoke and are legal to buy tobacco products. The tobacco industry targets that group in nightclubs and on college campuses."

Williams said the University of Arizona did a study that identified Mohave County as a smoker's stronghold. That institution will evaluate the campaign throughout 2007 to determine its effectiveness in getting smokers to kick the habit.

A fact sheet from the state Health Department states adults 18-24 have the highest prevalence of smoking and are least inclined to use quit tobacco services. The University of Arizona will complete a study in 2007 on how best to communicate with that target group.